In “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness”, there is much discussion about the vital role of our thoughts. To summarize briefly, your thoughts cause how you feel and what you do.
For example, let’s say the doorbell rang in the middle of the night and you looked out the window to see a man you had never met. How might you react?
If you thought “he must be in trouble; I need to help him,” you would likely feel worried and open your window to ask what was going on.
If you thought, “He is there to hurt me,” you might feel scared and call the police.
And if you thought, “This guy is just drunk and trying to bother me,” you would probably feel angry and might just ignore him.
Same event, different interpretation. And as a result, there would be a completely different emotional and behavioral reaction.
What does this have to do with forgiveness? Everything, really.
You see, it is not the event that is causing you so much resentment and anger. It is your INTERPRETATION of the event. It is your thoughts about what happened that generate your feelings of bitterness and outrage.
For many, this is a challenging point. In fact, numerous clients have told me how wrong I am. “Don’t you understand what happened to me? I am completely justified in being upset!”
That is when I say, “Wait a minute. There is no doubt that what happened to you has caused you a lot of pain. It was a tragic event that happened. And I am so sorry you had to go though it. What I am saying is that the pain you continue to feel is evoked by how you interpret the event.”
Let’s say you are driving along and, out of blue, someone rams his car into yours. How might you react? You might think, “What is wrong with this guy! He was probably talking on his cell phone, not paying attention. Or maybe his is drunk.” As a result you would probably feel pretty angry and be irritable when you speak with him
Now let’s imagine that you learn the reason this gentleman rammed into you was because he was having a stroke. Do you think your reaction might be different? My guess is “yes.”
Hopefully you can see how your thoughts affect how you feel and what you do.
Learning how to have thoughts that are more accurate and helpful will facilitate forgiveness and result in an even happier you!